The Ultimate Guide to Pimple-Popping, According to Dr. Pimple Popper
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There is, perhaps, no other thing in the world that is as annoying as it is satisfying than a ready-to-pop pimple. The sac of pus and dead skin cells, otherwise known as a zit is certainly an unwelcome visitor on the canvas that is your face, but the process of squeezing and releasing its disgusting, under-pressure contents yields a high and subsequent relief like no other.
In fact, pimple-popping has turned into a full-blown obsession with whitehead, blackhead, cyst, clogged pore, and dilated pore of Winer-extracting dermatologists churning out video after video to make them certifiably YouTube-famous.
The biggest household name, arguably, to emerge from this bizarre, albeit addictive trend is Sandra Lee, MD, otherwise known as Dr. Pimple Popper. Boasting over seven million subscribers and a TLC show bearing her namesake, she is the undisputed queen of comedones and the doctor who made the pimple popping video genre famous. Not to mention, she’s our favorite pimple-popping personality.
We had a chance to chat with the digital-turned-reality TV star to get her take on the best at-home pimple popping practices, despite her advice to simply not do it in the first place. Check out her tips below.
When Is It Okay to Pop a Pimple?
The short answer is never, according to Lee. “But I know it’s easier said than done.“
“If you simply cannot resist, only try to extract the pimple if the bump is very superficial to the surface of the skin, because you are the least likely to cause local infection and/or permanent scarring,” she says. “But remind yourself that these are risks you take if you squeeze any bump on your skin!”
How to Successfully Pop a Pimple
While we may all be guilty of pressing our pores against a medicine cabinet mirror and simply going to town, Lee recommends a four-step process to prevent the risk of any acne scar or infection.
1. Sterilize the Area
“Be sure to have clean tools, hands, and [an] environment,” says Lee. This can be accomplished by sanitizing surfaces with antibacterial wipes and singing “Happy Birthday” twice as you wash your hands with soap (much like we learned to do during COVID quarantine).
2. Wash Your Face with Warm Water and/or Take a Steamy Shower
“You really want to open up the pores,” she advises. Washing your face will also assist with step one and ensure your skin’s surface is rid of most bacteria.
3. Use Your Fingers, a Cotton Swab, or a Comedone Extractor for Whiteheads and Blackheads
For proper and thorough acne extraction guidance, be sure to check out one of Lee’s many pimple popping videos on YouTube.
“Place pressure on the skin immediately surrounding the whitehead [or blackhead] to push the contents out. If using fingers, increase traction by wrapping clean tissue paper around the fingers [that are] applying pressure,” advises Lee. Another option? Applying gentle pressure with the soft ends of a cotton swab.
4. Avoid Over-Squeezing
“A whitehead or blackhead should come out pretty easily if it is ready, but if the blemish is not popping, there’s definitely a time to give up because forcing it and continually pushing and squeezing will only irritate your skin cause increased swelling, redness, and pain, and certainly increase your risk for local infection and scarring,” warns Lee. “See a dermatologist or skin care professional to help you get these extracted.”
How to Prevent Scarring
Unsurprisingly, the best way to avoid scars and blemishes is to not pop a pimple in the first place, especially if it’s not budging easily.
“It’s important to understand that the deeper the inflammation is in your skin, the higher the chance for a scar,” says Lee.
Another quick tip is to stop while you’re ahead and don’t get over-ambitious.
“If you have a pimple that has come to a head and is superficial enough to be popped, pop it properly and stop before there is blood. This way, you can help to minimize the trauma and scarring often associated with popping pimples at home.”
What to do After You Pop a Pimple
“Once a pimple has been popped, be sure to keep the area clean and let it heal properly to avoid scarring. You can apply a good acne spot treatment to the area,” says Lee, who adds that the cream will also keep your hands off of the area so it can.
Should the pimple become infected, it’s usually pretty noticeable. Signs to see a dermatologist include severe pain in the area, increased redness, or even more pus than what you started with.
The Best Products for Acne
Dr. Pimple Popper herself has a wonderful line of acne-fighting products (SLMD Skincare), including products featuring star ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, that can halt pimples in their tracks. She also released a new line of Spot Check acne patches that will “gently exfoliate, soothe irritation, and provide pore-purifying benefits” to prevent you from needing to pop pimples in the first place.
Here are a few options that have also been approved by AskMen editors.
Targeting clogged pores and inflammation, this powerful retinoid gel provided up to “87 percent reduction in acne lesions after 12 weeks” in a clinical study. What was once a prescription can now be yours with a simple click of the mouse, but be forewarned: Results can take weeks and your condition may worsen before improving.
Promising Review: “After 30 years of cystic acne, this finally healed my skin. I gave up on using it one month in because it was drying me out like crazy. My dermatologist told me to trust the process and push through the purge. I’m four months in now and I’m ready to move to a stronger percentage (RX only). Two things I wish she would’ve told me: 1. Wait for your skin to dry fully after washing it and before applying the Differin. This will prevent flaking. 2. Apply at night right before bed, as sunlight makes Differin lose its effectiveness. Focus on protecting your skin and use an SPF during the day. It’s amazing! About to order my second tube. Trust the process! Push through the purge!” – Alessandra
Eva Natural Skin Clearing Serum
For an all-natural remedy, I can’t speak highly enough of Eva Naturals’ Skin Clearing Serum with vitamin C, retinol, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and salicylic acid. It not only packs a punch with anti-aging benefits, but keeps my complexion clear, bright, and free of cystic acne. It also smells wonderful, which is an added bonus when applied before bedtime.
Promising Review: “This stuff is so amazing. After just a couple of weeks of use, I saw such a difference (and I’m 60 years old!)…honestly, I keep touching my face..it’s so smooth and soft and moisturized! But don’t take my word for it…my boyfriend (hey, 60 is the new 40! :-b) regularly tells me how much he loves my skin, that my skin is so great!! Booyah!” – Anne
Ayadara Severe Acne Body Spray
Let’s not forget that many acne sufferers also experience breakouts beyond their face. This conveniently-shaped spray bottle containing soothing ingredients like tea tree and eucalyptus oils, as well as organic aloe leaf, does an amazing job reducing the size of painful cysts and preventing them from forming in the future.
Promising Review: “I have really bad back acne and I have had a hard time looking for the right product to get the job done. This back acne spray is a game changer!! I sprayed it on my acne and within a few days my acne went away! Also the ingredients are all natural which is a plus for those with sensitive skin.” – Travis
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